It’s good to be singleBy the staff of Dirt Wheels
At one time the Can-Am Commander was one of the sportiest UTVs available, but change happens fast in the side-by-side market. Machines with greater performance, including those from Can-Am, first relegated the Commander to a rec/utility machine, and then the nameplate was dropped from the 2021 Can-Am line. It is back in a big way for 2022.
BORROWING MAVERICK DNA
When reviving the Commander line, Can-Am looked no farther than the new-in-2018 Maverick Trail/Sport chassis, drivetrain and cockpit. The Maverick Sport has a tough, purposeful look but is not sleek. While adding a dump bed, Can-Am designed new bodywork for it, from the front bumper to the tailgate. The changes are subtle enough that you see the family connection, but it is impressive how adding a dump bed combines with the new bodywork to make a more elegant and sportier-looking machine.
This was not a straight re-body of the Maverick Sport and Trail line. There is no 50-inch Commander like the Maverick Trail. The Commander choices you get are the 62-inch and 64-inch. The XT we tested is 62 inches wide.
There are engine differences as well. Maverick Trail and Sport models had available a 51-horsepower V-twin 800 and a 75- and a 100-horsepower V-twin 1000. The 800 has been replaced by an all-new 52-horsepower Rotax ACE (Advanced Combustion Efficiency) liquid-cooled, 650cc single that’s designated the HD7. The HD7 is a state-of-the-art, unit-construction 650cc single with all the latest tech, especially cylinder-head tech usually seen on modern 450cc motocross engines.
The HD7 head employs dual overhead cams actuating four valves via proven shim-under-buckets. The design increases valve inspection and adjustment intervals to 2000 miles! It also allows the valves to open and close faster to increase torque. “Unit construction” means that the engine and transmission are a single unit rather than being bolted in the chassis separately. Power transfer between the two still happens with a CVT. There is a 100-pound difference between the Commander XT 700 and the V-twin Commander XT 1000, and much of that weight difference is in the engine and transmission.
The HD7 is paired with the 2022 Can-Am pDrive clutch updates that include steel rollers with needle bearings. It remains a Quick Response System (QRS) CVT with high airflow. An XT with the 1000 V-twin would have Electronic Drive Belt Protection, but the 700 doesn’t have it or need it. Driving modes include Turf, 2WD and 4WD with a Visco-Lok QE auto-locking front differential. Commander XT-P and X mr models have Smart-Lok, but not the HD7. The HD7 in the Commander 700 uses a sportier engine calibration than the Defender 700.
We are used to Can-Am building a plethora of models and trim packages, but the XT takes this trait a step farther. Can-Am’s Commander XT is available as a 700 or a 1000. They look the same, offer the same color choices, tire sizes and have gas-charged twin-tube shocks, but the 1000 has arched suspension arms, and 15 inches of travel front and rear compared to 12.5 inches in the front and 13 inches in the rear for the 700. There is also a four-seat Max Commander XT available, but only with the 1000cc engine.
Commander models also come with a variety of tires in different sizes as well. Our test unit had XT 28×14 XPS Trail King tires. The XPS tire is a new BRP brand, but the tires are made by Wanda Tire who private-labels tires for other vendors. The Trail Kings look aggressive with large and well-spaced tread blocks. They wear well and provided fine performance—from sand to rocks—with the 700. The more powerful 1000 may have uncovered some flaws, but the smooth and highly drivable and easy-to-control 700 didn’t tax them.
TAKE IT WITH YOU
We like the Commander storage options, including a deep top-loading glove box in front of the passenger seat and the smaller storage box in front of the driver. There’s no additional in-cab storage. Of course, there is that large dumping cargo bed for storage—a typical one-layer dump bed with a tailgate. With bed lifted, it’s easy to access the engine and maintenance items, like oil and air-filter checks.
Our machine came equipped with a protective roll cage for the bed, and the entire bed space was enclosed in a zippered soft top with windows. We can see where it would be valuable to have tools, camping or hunting gear secure from the elements. One drawback is that the rear enclosure is tied to the cab cage, so the two cages must be unbolted to use the dump bed.
Our machine had an exceedingly clever bed extender that folded flat and fastened to the tailgate. You wouldn’t know it was there until you needed it. Like the enclosure, the bed extender is a Can-Am accessory. The painted bedsides can be removed without tools. A CVT belt fits on the left side, and there is a storage area for light objects under the right bedside as well.
Can-Am gave the Commander shoulder-height half doors with handles inside and out. The driver’s seat is adjustable, and the view out the front is excellent, but out the back it’s not, and the bed enclosure did not help. There is no rear-view mirror. Our XT came with a very nice full windshield that has top and bottom filtered vents that can be opened, closed and have provisions to direct the incoming air. Our test was in cold weather, and the windshield worked fantastic, though the plastic used attracts dust.
Since the cockpit was first used on the 50-inch Maverick Trail, there isn’t a great deal of cab width, though it is otherwise comfortable with a secure feeling. Part of the security comes from the high door tops. Some drivers found the seating position low and would like the seat bases raised for comfort.
We have a lot of time in the Maverick Trail and Sport, but the 2022 XT-P with the 100-horsepower V-twin is our only other experience with the new Commander—larger tires, more wheel travel, 2 inches more track width and 48 more horsepower made for a machine that feels quite different. With a 90.6-inch wheelbase (longer than a RZR XP 1000), 28-inch tires and basic shocks with preload adjustment only, the XT soaks up trail chop and chatter quite well. The ride is surprisingly well-cushioned when you consider the total wheel travel. Our Commander XP-T would handle whoop sections, but the XT isn’t as happy. It gets through whoops fairly quick, but doesn’t get up on top of the bumps like the XT-P did.
This is our first experience with the all-new Rotax HD7 single-cylinder engine package. It is a strong performer for a 650cc single. It has Eco and Sport modes, but we used Eco only by accident. The smooth delivery provides great traction and control. This is an easy machine to drive between the modest power and the light but speed-sensitive steering.
We saw 65 mph going downhill, but a shade over 50 was more normal for top speed in high range if the terrain was soft. In a sand wash with chatter bumps we worked to reach 40 mph. In low range it has more shove to the power, but that is good for around 25 mph. We tested in the high desert with steep, rocky climbs at times, some packed dirt, and more soft and rutted sand. We were with faster machines but got along fine.
It was clearly happiest on the tight and twisty portions of the trail, even though they were the steepest. We were able to wiggle through rock formations fine, but we felt the wheelbase there compared to a shorter machine.
We didn’t have the Smart-Lok front differential, but we had ample traction and drive for anything we felt comfortable tackling. We hit some truly extreme routes in the Commander XT-P we tested. We would not choose that same route in this XT. The narrower track, smaller tires and reduced ground clearance would prevent us from the attempt. We did drive steep climbs with loose rock surfaces with no trouble.
The throttle pedal has a short throw, but with the 700, that isn’t a concern. Our western conditions mean that we are rolling deep in the throttle a good deal of the time. You step on the gas, and it goes but without wheelspin. As a result, tire wear was negligible. Low-rpm power is fine, but the mid- and high rpm is where the fun happens. There isn’t a lot of engine, exhaust or CVT noise.
There is a lot to like about the Commander XT 700. Especially in Metallic Blue, it is a fine-looking machine. It comes stock with painted body parts, a full roof and a front XT bumper. It also comes stock with a 4500-pound-rated winch and attractive cast-aluminum wheels. The cage is profiled, so there are enclosed cab options for areas without our balmy California weather.
While there is no excess power, we had plenty to get the job done and have fun along the way. We must admit that we were not looking forward to western terrain with the twin-tube shocks and 12.5 to 13 inches of travel, but the ride proved comfortable and smooth. We feel that the lack of brute acceleration and the wheelbase clearly helped with suspension feel.
Our list of snivels is small. Big guys feel restricted shoulder room, but there is sufficient legroom. We would pop for mirrors or a back-up camera as the first order of business.
It goes plenty fast for trails, and on higher-speed roads and open areas, the engine capability and the limits of the suspension are matched well. It does better in the rough than the old Commander did. It is nimble and capable for tight trails. It is not the sportiest dump-bed-equipped UTV, but it may well be the sportiest with a single-cylinder engine. It is a fun machine that we enjoyed our time in. It never missed a beat, and we had no hint of any mechanical issues no matter how hard we pushed it.
2022 CAN-AM COMMANDER XT
Engine type Rotax ACE (AdvancedCombustion Efficiency) singlecylinder, liquid-cooled
Transmission PDrive primary CVTwith engine braking and electronicdrive belt protection L/H/N/R/P
Final drive Shaft
Fuel system EFI with Intelligent
Throttle Control (iTC)
Fuel capacity 10 gal.
Ground clearance 13”
Estimated dry weight 1575 lb.
Front Double A-arm withsway bar/12.5”
Rear TTA with sway bar/13”
Front 28×9-14” XPS Trail King
Rear 28×11-14” XPS Trail King
Front Dual 220mm ventilateddisc brakes with hydraulictwin-piston calipers
Rear Dual 220mm vented hydraulicdisc with dual-piston calipers
Bed capacity 600 lb.
Towing 2,000 lb.
Colors Triple Black, Octane Blue,Mossy Oak Break-Up Country Camo
Price Starting at $15,799